Roni Kramer on the job (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)
Roni Kramer on the job (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

Q&A: Her derma-devotion to Chinese herbs begat a global Israel-based brand

Name: Roni Kramer

Age: 50

City: San Francisco

Profession: Founder and CEO of Kamedis

J.: You had an interesting journey — from your home in Tel Aviv to a Chinese medicine school in San Francisco to a job in China — before starting Kamedis, an herbal skin-care company that combines Chinese medicine with Western pharmacology and biochemistry. How did you come to be interested in Chinese medicine?

Roni Kramer: I was looking for a holistic approach to human illness and I found it in Chinese medicine. I started in Tel Aviv. In San Francisco, when I came here [to study at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine], I had the honor to be taught by Chinese doctors who had arrived not long ago from China. That was very special. I felt like I started studying from real masters. I came to San Francisco for acupuncture, because that’s what I knew about in Israel. But here I fell in love with herbs. I felt like I was entering the secret garden of ingredients. It was like magic.

After you graduated, you went to China to practice. How was that?

I went to Chengdu to specialize in one of the hospitals there in dermatology for a few weeks. It was rough: the culture, the language, the temperature, the facilities, the people coming to the doctor. Everything was so different!

Then you practiced in Tel Aviv before starting your dermaceutical company, which is based in Israel, in 1998. How did that happen?

In Tel Aviv we had a huge amount of patients that came from Western medicine and dermatology who were looking for a solution to their skin issues and were seeking a different approach. We had a lab in the clinic and we were doing very simple topical things in the beginning. We started our own trials to see how it would work and we adjusted along the way. The products are natural and they are effective and they are validated and they have no side effects. They’re not white! They’re green, they’re blue, they’re brown; they have the colors of very potent botanicals. After you see it, it’s really hard to use something white, because what is white? It’s synthetic.

What has been the response?

What we achieved is amazing. We distribute in Israel, in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, in Switzerland, the Philippines and now the U.S.

It’s interesting that you actually create Chinese medicine-based products for the Chinese market.

They are very excited about it. They tell us, “Jewish people — you’re so smart the way you’re doing it properly.” We’re using Chinese medicine, but it’s the Western approach. It’s a two-year development process, almost like medication. It’s a very serious process. Here in the U.S. we use active ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid and sulphur, and we add botanicals, which have been known for many years to have benefits.

You spent 10 years as a dermatology practitioner treating skin disorders. Do you miss the hands-on work?

I quit practicing years ago when I moved to the business side. I miss it a lot but I also feel growing a company is a big, exciting challenge. My reason for having this company is really to help people. I can affect many people, not like the 20 people I could see per week. What really makes me happy is when I wake up in the morning and I see testimonials of people saying, “Thank you so much! I have had this problem for my whole life, I couldn’t go out of the house, and this Kamedis product made a huge difference.” For this, I do what I do.

You have an affection for San Francisco. Why?

I got my master’s degree and acupuncture license in California. This is a place that really enables fusion to happen: Jewish, Israeli, Chinese. You need somewhere very liberal to let that happen, really. I’m here till July, then we’re going to move back [to Israel]. It will have been three years. My kids are going to school here. I love San Francisco. I feel at home here. I love the spirit of the place. People are open-minded. But I belong to Israel. I’m also happy to go back to friends and family.

“Talking With” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to [email protected].

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.